IZA Discussion Paper No. 13281

EU Jobs at Highest Risk of COVID-19 Social Distancing: Will the Pandemic Exacerbate Labour Market Divide?

This paper employs a skills-based approach to identify individual and job factors most likely to be impacted by social distancing measures and practices due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using data from the Cedefop European skills and jobs survey, a Covid-19 social distancing risk index (COV19R) is created based on skills descriptors that categorise jobs by their level of physical proximity to others and their digital intensity. It is conservatively estimated that about 45 million jobs in the EU-27 labour market (23% of total EU-27 employment) are faced with a very high risk of Covid-19 disruption and another 22% of the EU workforce – mostly medium- to lower-skilled service provision – is exposed to some significant risk. The burden of the Covid-19 social distancing risk falls disproportionately on vulnerable workforce groups, such as women, older employees, non-natives, the lower-educated, those working longer hours and employed in micro-sized workplaces. The findings call for immediate and targeted policy responses to prevent ongoing job losses and widening of labour market and social inequalities due to the pandemic.